Dear Film Buff, This is another excellent review - I particularly like the point you make about people being people 'beyond the remit of their environment'. This ambiguity is truer than the Marxist idea that we are all merely a product of economic forces. As I remember, Pedro has good in him, as I recall that scene where he is waylaid by the other boy and had singled it out as you have. And the dream sequences here have a poetry, suggesting some sense of grace even at the death of the awful boy. This seems much more humanist than what you find in some of his later films - Tristana, The Discreet Charm, even, dare I say it, The Exterminating Angel ... in spite of the harshness. The theme of the unloving mother also recalls the two films by Gerard Blain that were on my list, although I wouldn't describe those as a 'punch in the guts' - I think Bunuel's film also offers something that transcends this. I suppose also that youth on screen gives one a certain hope that things may improve, as they have - or should have - so much life before them, and are not completely entrenched and closed off to their imaginations.
Having said that, you also bring out the appalling behaviour of these youths - the scene with the legless cripple and also the blind man are both dreadful to watch - in the case of the first your horror is compounded by knowing that that man really was in that condition.
I'm always a bit torn on how much we want to see of horror and how much we want art to take us into something else. In one sense I feel that the real art can start where individuals are no longer embattled in a fight against injustice, bigotry, cruelty etc. It is important to know about these things, but if you imagine a society where these problems were resolved - which in the end nearly always come down to human greed or stupidity - then how do people live? Films that take on the worst subjects have an almost documentary value, but the ones it's easier to cherish show life beyond all the man-made suffering. This aesthetic aspect of film is what excites me the most - the part that is most akin to music, in fact. No doubt this is why you like Black Narcissus so much, and I, Pink Narcissus! - two very aesthetic films above all. I'd be interested to know your thoughts, knowing that you can take on the toughest films far more unflinchingly than I!
I have written my review of Ludwig, by the way ... about as different from Los Olvidados as can be imagined! As you know, I wouldn't have seen it had it not been for reading your review, so it has had a very positive effect on me, therefore it may well on others! I'm still amazed by it.
I hope you will want to exchange ideas about films still - I'm sure we have many more thoughts we can bounce back and forth (at a slower rate is fine, by all means - I imagine once the term starts you will be more pushed for time). In a way I'm quite happy to write fewer reviews than I did, having written so many! I like to write them still, but in terms of films, in particular, I have got to know many of them over repeated viewings over a number of years, and have lived with them. Most of those that have meant the most to me have now been covered, and I don't want to write about things I'm not so keen on except exceptionally, where I feel there is some bigger point than simply my not being very keen! It was for this reason that I wrote about Rust and Bone, for instance, to pinpoint a direction in French cinema that I think is worth discussing - and criticising! But you tend to get negative votes if you do this ... I seem to remember you saying that you think there are 1500 great films, more or less, which means you have quite an undertaking ahead if you want to get through all of them!?